Monday, 27 August 2012

Why I'll always support Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong was a role model for me throughout my cancer treatment. I kept reminding myself that he had undergone chemotherapy, just like me, and then gone on to win the Tour de France seven times. I can’t describe how important this was to me. It gave me hope that there would be a future for me after my treatment was complete. And it made me aspire to be strong, like Lance.

In his autobiography, “It’s not about the bike,” Lance explained that when he was presented with the stark reality of how tough his chemo regime was going to be, he felt confident because it was a physical challenge, and he said that “as an athlete, physical challenges are something that I’m good at.”

The idea of being an athlete captured my imagination. It couldn’t have been further from who I was at the time – I was not remotely sporty. Far from it. I was unfit and very overweight. I'd never run further than 400 meters in my entire life. But I wanted to be strong like Lance, and I wanted to know that if I ever had to face something like chemo again, I would be ready. I wanted to be an athlete who was good at physical challenges too.

After successful chemotherapy treatment, five years later my cancer is still in remission, and I’m fitter, healthier and happier than I have ever been in my life before. I took up running and weight training. I lost 42 pounds, and then put on 14 pounds in lean muscle. I’ve given up alcohol. I’m always in training for my next marathon, and for the first time in my life, at the age of 40, I have a six-pack. From never doing any exercise, I now do a 2 hour workout every day, and I’ve recently become a qualified personal trainer.

And it's all thanks to Lance. His seven Tour de France wins were victories for cancer patients and survivors everywhere, and no one can take them away from him or from us.


Well, I was wrong about that last bit. They did take Lance's victories away from him. It's quite a blow to discover that our heroes are in fact all too human. Lance Armstrong has now admitted that he lied, and that he did in fact cheat. There is no justification for this behaviour. The strange thing is though, that apart from the past paragraph, everything else in this blog post remains the truth. 

What Lance did was wrong. No excuses. It's also true that his actions helped a lot of people in dealing with cancer. This is not a justification or an excuse. It's just another fact. Which I think just goes to show how complicated the world is. Few things are black and white. Bad decisions can have good consequences, just as well meaning intentions can sometimes have bad consequences. 

I'm really disappointed that a hero of mine turned out not to be the saint that I thought he was. But then, perhaps that's my fault for idolising him in the first place. Now, with a clearer perspective, I see a complicated individual with both good and bad intentions. I suspect though that at the end of the day he'll leave the world a slightly better place than it was when he arrived. And perhaps that's all that any of us can hope for.